Honda does not sell any trucks. The Ridgeline has an open bed like a pickup but is really a Pilot with an open back. The same platform also begets the Odyssey minivan and Passport. While Honda refers to the trio as "light trucks,” all three are unibody front-drive vehicles at their core. Honda’s crossover offerings also include the smaller CR-V and smaller-still HR-V.
That places the Passport at the heart of the Honda crossover pack, between the CR-V and Pilot. The Passport has the same blocky, rugged countenance as the Pilot. But with 15.2-cm of body chopped off aft of the rear wheels, there is only room for two rows of seats, instead of three. The wheelbase remains the same.
The shorter tail may not have left room for a row of seats, but that is the only loss. Honda claims class-leading interior volume. There are a full 1,450 litres of cargo space with the second row in place, and an impressive 2,850 litres with it folded down. That is more than the Pilot offers with three rows in place, and 1.5 times more than the CR-V.
The first impression when getting into the Passport is one of size and roominess. Thanks to a low belt line and plenty of glass, second-row occupants share a similar impression. Up front, the driver and passenger face a well-finished dash. The large (18-cm) infotainment screen in the centre has a separate volume knob. Honda obviously listened to customer complaints about the difficulty of changing volume with a screen! The system supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
There is more dark “piano black” trim than I’d prefer, but fit, and finish are first rate. Storage was obviously on the mind of the interior design team. There are numerous cubbies and spots to put stuff. The large centre console is topped by a roll-top cove, both front and rear seats are heated on all but the base trim. A heated steering wheel is standard across the board. The front seats on the Touring level tester were also ventilated.
The shift “lever” for the nine-speed automatic transmission is actually a series of buttons on the centre console. When you arrive at your destination there is no need to press the one for Park. Shut off the ignition and the transmission automatically does that for you.
Honda, at its core, is an engine company. One of its finer efforts is used here. Like the Pilot and Ridgeline, the Passport is powered by a refined 3.5-litre V6. Silky smooth and quiet, it produces 280 horsepower — plenty for this application. The standard-in-Canada all-wheel-drive system is working full time, sending at least five per cent of engine output to the rear wheels at all times. The proactive system features torque vectoring, which sends more power to the outside wheels while cornering. The benefits are clearly evident in all seasons.
While it lacks a third row, the Passport gains a level of driving dynamics, an alacrity, the bigger Pilot cannot. The ride is on the stiff side over rough surfaces, but not unpleasantly so. There is little body roll and response to steering inputs is more direct and linear than expected in a crossover of this size.
The Passport is available in three trims: Sport, EXL and Touring.
Model: 2020 Honda Passport Touring
Engine: 3.5-litre, V6, 280 horsepower, 262 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel
Transmission: nine-speed automatic
NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 12.5 / 9.8
Length: 4,839 mm
Width: 2,279 mm
Wheelbase: 2,817 mm
Weight: 1,914 kg
Price: $41,990 base, $48,990 as tested, plus freight
Competition: Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sportage, Nissan Murano,
Options on test vehicle: none